Time to stand and stare on this walk around Harwood Dale

View over Harwood Dale
View over Harwood Dale

by Maureen Robinson

This charming walk is a paradise for naturalists and those who, in this busy life, still find time to stand and stare.

Scar and Castlebeck Woods in Harwood Dale are owned by the Woodland Trust as valuable areas to be conserved for future generations.

Though access from the road is by the means of public footpaths, the woods themselves may be enjoyed subject to every care being taken to respect the country code and local wildlife on the reserve.

Access may be from the A171 Scarborough to Whitby road, turning off left near Helwath Bridge to follow Helwath Road to the starting point.

Another approach is from Harwood Dale, passing the Mill Inn to your left, and just ahead is your starting point – Chapel Farm.

Park in the vicinity on the grass verge, taking care not to obstruct anyone’s access. A little roadwork at the start, and an optional extra at the end, conveniently leaves the ‘sandwich-filling’ a potpourri of experiences to savour!

Start. From Chapel Farm head north to enjoy lovely views, hedgerows and interesting wild flowers on grass verges, including orchids.

Rounding the bend you shortly pass Castlebeck Farm, and then dropping into the dip you’ll find your exit from the road to your left.

Take the public footpath, and crossing a grassed field veer right to follow a raised bank alongside woodland to the field’s far end.

Access the waymarked track used by the Woodland Trust. This quickly veers left into the valley.

Reaching Jugger Howe Beck, cross by the fine, wooden footbridge. Turn left immediately to meet a gate/stile. Enter, by the Woodland Trust sign, and continue through woodland beside the rippling beck. Ash and alder hug the embankment, as your path opens onto heathland, dominated by gorse, silver birch and bracken etc. In summer, the tiny four-petalled flowers of tormentil sprinkle the turf with gold. Herons may be seen if you walk quietly.

Your footpath rises and falls through the woodland. Maybe you’ll decide to picnic, taking care not to sit on the ant hills!

You may find a few ‘damp’ spots underfoot as you leave and rejoin the beckside, 
before emerging onto scrubland, then plunging into woodland and climbing to greater heights.

Woodland is to your right as your path follows its bracken-strewn way to meet a stony cross-track.

At this junction turn left and your path leads onto a wooden footbridge spanning the beck. Cross the bridge and turn right with the path for about 50 paces to a metal gate on the right. Do not enter, but keep straight ahead. Keep to the track which ascends beneath trees to the outer edge of the wood. Leave by a gate and bear left to return to Chapel Farm. Meeting the road, do consider an extension.

With your scenic route completed, you may wish to visit the remains of St Margaret’s Chapel which lies within the estate to the south side of the house. If so, turn right and descend the road to the ‘dip’ just past a public footpath sign which you may see to your left.

Turn right along a footpath to St Margaret’s Church. Beyond a stream, your way is over a field to the hilltop. Within the walled churchyard of ancient tombstones stand the remains of a church.

Enter, and pause to read the ‘Praise Plaque’. Meditate on the words from Psalm 104 verse 24: “O Lord how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all: The earth is full of Thy riches.”

The plaque continues: “High as the sun and stars above, are God the father’s plans of love - Beyond man’s comprehension.

“No human mind could e’er conceive, the plan by which the Father leads His chosen ones, His children.”

What a wonderfully uplifting ending to your walk!

Now just retrace your steps to the road once more, and either turn left up Helwath Road to your original starting point at Chapel Farm, or continue a little further south.

There is Mill Inn for possible refreshment on the lawn.

However, I suggest you contact the proprietor first, to enquire the times of opening.

Distance: Approximately 3.5 miles (red-arrowed route) or approximately 4.5 miles (blue-arrowed route).

Map reference: North York Moors Eastern area, Explorer Map. Scale 1:25,000 (4cm to 1km or 2½ inches to 1 miles).